Darwinian Theology

Posted By on February 18, 2008

“More Bad Oxymorons And Other Nonsense”

.: I have a bad habit of checking the Trib’s opinion pages for the occasional 300-word polemic against “Darwinism”. I have an equally bad habit of responding to those polemics with my own carefully researched and devastatingly concise rebuttals. Of course my letters to the editor are invariably altered to the point of incomprehensibility, but I try. Today I was served a nice treat: an entire guest column by John West, senior fellow of the Discovery Institute, titled “Worshiping at Darwin’s Altar.”

After years of accusing Darwin’s critics of trying to insert religion into biology classes on the sly, leading defenders of evolution are now campaigning to incorporate religion explicitly into classroom lessons on evolution.

.: What’s this now, religion in our classrooms, and from those dreaded Darwinists no less? I certainly don’t want religion anywhere near a science classroom. I’m equally opposed to teachers who would waste class time even addressing religious topics at all, whether pro or con. So what is the problem, exactly?

An educational Web site called “Understanding Evolution,” meanwhile, encourages teachers to debunk the “misconception” among students that evolution is incompatible with religion.

.: John West wants to argue that evolution sometimes is incompatible with religion (thus the scarequotes around “misconception”), so shouldn’t we see what the website actually says?

The misconception that one always has to choose between science and religion is incorrect. Of course, some religious beliefs explicitly contradict science (e.g., the belief that the world and all life on it was created in six literal days); however, most religious groups have no conflict with the theory of evolution or other scientific findings. [emphasis added]

.: So it seems evolution sometimes is incompatible with religious beliefs, at least according to the Understand Evolution website. This is an undeniable statement of fact, as is the final sentence which is backed up by a link to several statements on evolution by major religious organizations.

.: These are mere descriptive facts. The purpose of this website is to let students feel more comfortable learning state of the art science. Understand Evolution has made it clear that when certain religious beliefs contradict science the science should still be taught. Nobody is “using religion” to teach evolution. No teacher is going to start class by announcing, “Since the American Jewish Congress has given us their okay, today we’re going to learn about silent mutations.” The whole problem was started in the first place by odious creationists like West who’ve repeatedly disrupted science classes with their bogus, religiously-motivated and -derived objections to evolution.

.: As long as a vocal minority uses their ignorant superstitions to block science education, it will be expedient for educators to point out the more sophisticated belief systems that aren’t actively trying to undermine science.

.: With all that said, I do have some sympathy with his piece. If science teachers are allowed to point students to statements by religion organizations that support evolution, why can’t they point students to statements by religious organizations that condemn evolution? I, personally, would rather they do neither, since it’s irrelevant in the first place. If 95% of the world’s religious organizations didn’t support evolution, the science should still be taught. But that’s exactly the point: the religious statements that condemn evolution invariably use faulty science, and the prime objective of a science educator is to teach good, current, and accepted science. If there are religious organizations out there that accept proper science, great! Making students aware of this fact has a very real secular purpose of facilitating proper science education.

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